ColorWorks Custom Lab         

Fine Art Reproduction & Framing

(907) 474-0002

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Color management:

spectrophotometer, color swatches

 While the topic of color management or color science is a complex one, I will touch briefly on the theory, and the importance in color reproduction.

Colors in the computer are made up from the combination of red green and blue colors. There are 256 possible variations for (density or value) i.e. lightness and darkness, there are 256 possible variations for color hue, and there are 256 possibilities for intensity or color saturation. When you combine 256x256x256 you end up with a possible combination of 16.7 million color combinations.

In short,  color management is an attempt to control the variations of these color combinations precisely. A color management system (in theory) will take a look at a large selection of colors, such as seen in the photograph above. Using highly sensitive spectrophotometers, input and output color can be precisely measured.  The software will then compare  the output colors  to what was actually captured by the camera. Through a series of computer algorithms, it will then attempt to control the output to match the input values.

This is a very simplified explanation to a very complex task. There are many variables involved, such as the actual light source color temperature, as well as intensity of the light falling on the artwork. This is just one such variable that can change when the light is turned on and off. Other things such as transmission of color by particular lenses, surrounding wall colors, and then how the colors themselves behave under a particular light source. We are all probably familiar with florescent colors and black lights to cite a more extreme example of how colors can behave under different light sources.

Color management is not only a function of image capture, but is used for display monitors and for printer output. All such devices in a system must be calibrated, and this "closed loop" system is key in color accuracy. This is also one of the reasons I tend to not accept digital files from outside sources. The more precisely the environment and variables can be controlled, the more accurate the final output.

While color management plays a key role in color accuracy, the ability of the photographer to be able to identify color shifts, and subtle variations is part of the art of fine art reproduction. It's difficult to correct poor color if you cannot identify the problem.  Not enough blue in a red, too much yellow in a green, blacks that are too intense, to name just a few. Fine art reproduction is not just a science, but very much an art.

Finally, there is accurate color and then there is subjective color. By working closely with the artist, it is possible to make subtle "tweaks" to the captured image. Sometimes a departure from the original can actually enhance the reproduction. A good example of this would be some extra contrast, or perhaps removing an unwanted color cast that was not originally apparent.

Many such refinements are possible, and I am happy to work with any artist to refine their art until it is "perfect" to their own unique vision. (see the terms and conditons page for limits) 

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